Last year, Virginia Coach Pete Gillen needed six games to beat his first Atlantic Coast Conference opponent in his inaugural season with the Cavaliers. This season, it took only two games as Virginia rebounded from an emotional overtime loss to Duke Wednesday with an 83-65 thumping of Georgia Tech today.
"It's a great win, our best win of the year," Gillen said. "You have to win your games at home in this conference because it is so tough to win anywhere."
Virginia (10-4, 1-1 ACC) started the game slowly, hitting just 5 of 19 shots from inside the three-point line in the first half and struggling to keep up with the Yellow Jackets, who led 37-36 at halftime. After using an 11-0 run to take an early 14-7 lead, the Cavaliers allowed Georgia Tech (7-6, 0-1) to reel off 12 unanswered points to finish the first half.
"Duke beat us Wednesday night [a 109-100 overtime loss], and they almost beat us again Saturday afternoon," Gillen said. "Duke drained us mentally, physically, emotionally, and Georgia Tech did some good things."
But behind a frenetic 21-2 scoring spree keyed by point guard Donald Hand and forward Chris Williams at the start of the second half, the Cavaliers ran past the Yellow Jackets' towering frontline of 6-foot-11 center Alvin Jones and 7-foot forward Jason Collier to grab a 57-39 lead with 14 minutes 33 seconds left.
"It was a game of two halves," Georgia Tech Coach Bobby Cremins said. "In the first, we were in the game. In the second, we were totally outplayed. Virginia took us out of everything we were trying to do. They made us look very bad."
Virginia did most of its damage in a six-minute run without its best post player, freshman forward Travis Watson, who picked up his fourth foul four minutes into the second half. But with forwards Adam Hall and Roger Mason (Good Counsel) cutting off the Georgia Tech guards' access inside, the Yellow Jackets were unable to force the ball to their frontline to capitalize on their height advantage.
Collier finished with 21 points and eight rebounds, many of which came after the outcome was decided, but Jones was held to 10 points, four rebounds and fouled out with four minutes left.
"We had trouble with a lot of things," Cremins said. "We could not get the ball back inside in the second half. Everything just went south--quickly."
Gillen frequently used a lineup in which the 6-6 Williams was the tallest Cavalier on the floor, and Virginia crushed the slower Yellow Jackets with long-range shooting (60 percent in the second half) and several easy transition points.
Williams finished with 14 points and five assists, and Hand poured in 27 points on 8-of-15 shooting plus seven rebounds and four assists. Off the bench, Mason scored 14 points in 24 minutes, including three three-pointers.
Gillen said after the game that reserve guard Chezley Watson, who was nagged by an ankle injury this season, left the team and intends to try out for the school's football team.
AMERICAN 60, UNC WILMINGTON 58: Freshman guard Hasheem Alexander sank a running jump shot with four seconds remaining to lead the Eagles before 3,761 at Bender Arena.
Alexander finished with 17 points, helping American (6-6, 1-2 Colonial Athletic Association) snap a four-game losing streak. Reserve sophomore guard Tim Washington added 15 points and junior forward Patrick Doctor finished with 11.
JAMES MADISON 88, G. MASON 85: Jamar Perry scored six of his 15 second-half points during a 13-4 run to begin the half and James Madison rallied to beat George Mason in Harrisonburg.
Jabari Outtz led James Madison (9-5, 3-1 CAA) with 24 points. George Evans led George Mason (6-7, 1-2) with 25 points and 15 rebounds and Erik Herring scored 23.
CATHOLIC 76, CCNY 55: Pat Maloney scored a game-high 18 points to lead the Cardinals (9-1) to the win over CCNY (2-5) in the first round of the Catholic Shootout at DuFour Center.
Andy Rice had 8 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals for Catholic.